MATCH REPORT: SPURS 2, READING 2
Dimitar Berbatov making it 13 for the season with two goals was not enough to defeat Reading and a third meeting is now booked for the two teams the week after next.
Dimitar Berbatov making it 13 for the season with two goals was not enough to defeat Reading and a third meeting is now booked for the two teams the week after next.It was another no-holds-barred contest against the Berkshire side and it wasn't slow to come to life - continuing right until the end with Reading snatching an equaliser and substitute Huddlestone getting himself sent off.
Just a minute in and Aaron Lennon was showing his marker a clean pair of heels, speedng past Ulises de la Cruz before flighting over a cross that was just a little too far ahead of Robbie Keane. Berbatov tried his luck, but his radar was well askew in the third minute and his effort drew only derision from the Reading contingent within the Lane.
Keane will not want to see too many replays of a chance Berbatov crafted out for him on 5 minutes, the Bulgarian accepting the ball from Steed Malbranque before easing down the right and dispatching a measured pass across goal for Keane to tap in. He applied his left foot and somehow steered wide. Not one for the Keane collection.
It was frenetic stuff, almost like a continuation of last weekend but without the goals in the first ten minutes. Ledley King and Michael Dawson were reunited at the back, while Keane was restored to the attack in place of Jermain Defoe. Pascal Chimbonda returned after a bug, allowing Didier Zokora to operate in tandem with Jermaine Jenas in the heart of midfield.
The curious events of last week certainly seemed to extend to the first goal this time around with 25 minutes on the clock. Nicky Hunt pumped a free-kick forward appearing to lack any great purpose but the flight of the ball caught everyone by surprise and Paul Robinson slipped slightly before the assistant adjudged that the ball had been carried over the line by the goalkeeper.
The response was swift and decisive on 28 minutes, Lennon prodding through to Berbatov who took the ball down on the turn and arrowed a brilliant strike past Adam Federici and into the top corner. A Berbatov volley on the spin from a Jenas centre was then probably only a matter of inches away from creating an advantage.
Jenas should have made it 2-1 was put through on 34 minutes, but Federici stayed big and managed to divert. Malbranque was then in at the conclusion of two moves, but failed to really trouble the visiting keeper.
Just before the break Jenas was set clear by an incisive ball from Lennon and appeared to have more time to pick his spot, but Federici denied the midfielder - who was actually having a good game.
It was a gripping match and it didn't go unnoticed at half-time that the scoring pattern was following that of the last meeting between the two sides...
Just three minutes into the second half the lead was taken after Keane was chopped down by Liam Rosenior following a superb chipped ball from Dawson. Mr Clattenburg pointed straight to the spot and Berbatov took over spotkick duties. He made no mistake, fizzing the ball to Federici's right.
Keane then had the ball over the line when he pounced on the rebound from a Berbatov drive, but the flag of the assistant quashed any celebrations. The same player then failed just to make enough of a connection with a Chimbonda cross to the near post.
Keane was replaced on 63 minutes by Adel Taarabt. Strangely enough, he didn't score any of the six against Reading last week. Somehow Berbatov didn't manage to make it three in front of goal, before Taarabt bought some trickery to the occasion. The lead was no way comfortable enough to avoid the prospect of a replay - there was significant pressure being applied though, with Taarabt working Federici.
The sting in the tail came on 77 minutes when Leroy Lita cut inside and drilled a shot towards the near post. Robinson saved superbly, but Stephen Hunt stole in and rounded the goalkeeper to net the rebound. It was not a deserved leveller and Huddlestone was quickly introduced in place of Malbranque.
Huddlestone was not on for long though, the midfielder getting a straight red card on 82 minutes for making contact with his head in a coming together with Bobby Convey.
Reading were sniffing an unlikely victory but 2-2 it remained and a replay it is.